NBA Draft Combine: Day 1 Takeaways
The opinions expressed in this column do not represent those of the Boston Celtics front office personnel.
CHICAGO – The NBA Draft Combine has never felt like this.
For the first time since 2008, the NBA returned to featuring 5-on-5 games as the core of the event. For the first time ever, those 5-on-5 games were held at the Quest Sports Complex in Chicago.
The combination allowed those in attendance, including nearly every high-level NBA front office executive, to watch NBA prospects actually play the game of basketball rather than simply participate in drills.
Every executive or coach who spoke to Celtics.com noted that he was pleased with this year’s structure. They all felt that they could judge a player much more accurately while watching him compete in game action as opposed to only drills.
Two games were played today. Team 1 faced off against Team 2, and Team 3 faced off against Team 4. You can see each roster of players by clicking here.
As all of the action played itself out, I sat in the stands and jotted down notes on the players who were on the court. My greatest takeaways are below.
Game 1: Team 1 vs. Team 2
The first thing I noticed when these two teams took the court was the size of French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh. He measured out at only 6-foot-10 ½ but boy, did he seem larger than that.
Jaiteh is built well and he moves well for his size. He threw down a very impressive slam at the close of pregame warm ups that opened up a few eyes in the crowd.
The game began with Jaihteh taking the opening tip and his size continued to show through for the remainder of the contest. He grabbed a game-high 10 boards, half of which were at the offensive end of the court, and also blocked a shot while affecting several others.
While Jaiteh seemed to have strengthened his reputation with today’s performance, there are some question marks. He is only 20 years old and although he seems to know the game relatively well, he’s still a bit raw.
Jaiteh provided necessary help defense but did not get back to his original assignment, allowing open shots on a couple of occasions. He also almost exclusively rolls toward the baseline when he makes a move on the block. Most of his post-up attempts were from the left block. He liked to spin over his left shoulder for a shot with his right hand.
Overall, he had a solid day and showed promise. I’m sure executives are intrigued by him.
Was Richaun Holmes on your radar heading into today? Doubtful, but he was on everyone’s radar by the end of the first game.
Holmes, out of Bowling Green, is a big man who measured out at 6-foot-9 ½ in his sneakers today. He played much taller than that while being a defensive menace all day long.
Holmes blocked a game-high five shots on the day. He racked up those blocks via both on-ball defense and help defense, which is a great sign for his abilities. Great shot-blockers are able to swat balls away in every which way, and he did that.
Unfortunately, he didn’t do much else on the afternoon as he scored only six points on 3-of-4 shooting to go along with two rebounds. Still, though, he made an impression.
Terry Rozier’s average of 16.8 points per game tied two other Atlantic Coast Conference players as the top mark in the league this past season. He showed us some glimpses on Thursday of how he was able to score so often during his time at Louisville.
Rozier played less than 21 minutes but still led his team in scoring with 13 points. He was quick with the ball and made a couple of pretty floaters on the move. He shot 5-of-9 on the afternoon and added two assists.
At the defensive end, the 6-foot-2 guard showed solid instincts. He grabbed one of his two steals by jumping into a passing lane for an interception. He snagged the steal on the move and continued toward his team’s basket for an athletic fast break slam.
Team 1 had a chance to tie or win the game twice in the final 30 seconds of the game. First, Ryan Boatright missed a jumper with 21.9 seconds left that would have given his team a one-point lead. Next, after two free throws from Team 2, Boatright found Anthony Brown for an open attempt on a corner 3 as time expired. His shot would have tied the game, but it missed and Team 2 held on for an 80-77 win.
Game 2: Team 3 vs. Team 4
Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey came into the NBA Combine with a reputation as a scorer and a shooter. He dropped 23.1 points per game this season and shot 43.1 percent from long distance.
Let’s just say he wasn’t quite as successful Thursday afternoon.
Harvey got his shots up but few of them fell through the net. He shot 3-for-13 on the afternoon, including a 2-of-9 performance from 3-point range.
I love the kid’s confidence. As they say, shooters always believe their next one is going to fall. My best guess is that he just didn’t have it today. That being said, I would like to see him square his entire body up to the basket when he lets it fly.
Harvey also struggled mightily at the defensive end. He was regularly beaten off the dribble and on back-cuts away from the ball. A couple of plays that stood out were one-on-one plays against Oregon’s Joseph Young, who easily schooled Harvey with dribble moves and blew past him into the lane. Harvey's going to need to clean it up at that end, no doubt.
Talk about stuffing the stat sheet. LSU’s Jordan Mickey was unreal during Game 2.
The undersized big man didn’t look very undersized on Thursday as he swatted away eight shots in just 29 minutes of action. Yeah - eight shots in just 29 minutes of action!. It’s hard not to notice that type of defense.
Mickey also made a difference in the scoring column, where he tied for the team high with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. His eight rebounds led the team as well.
Mickey had a great season for the Tigers and he continued to roll at the Combine. He was the best all-around player on the day.
Mickey was great, but Team 4’s Vince Hunter wasn’t too far behind. In fact, Hunter actually had the upper hand in the scoring column. Hunter scored a game-high 18 points while making eight of his 16 shot attempts. He plays well off of the ball and crashes to the basket when his teammates find driving lanes.
There may have been no player who showcased more energy than Hunter. He crashed the offensive glass for nine boards on Thursday, which surpassed the total rebound number of all but two other players on the day.
Most of the players who participated in today’s games aren’t fighting for draft position; instead, they’re fighting to be drafted, period. The effort and efficiency Hunter showed today could go a long way toward getting his name called on June 25.
It was clear throughout the day that these former student-athletes were still getting used to the NBA game. In particular, they were adjusting to the court.
At one point during Game 1, Treveon Graham and Brandon Ashley didn’t know where to stand during a free-throw attempt. After about five seconds, they figured it out.
Even more disturbing was the fact that the players couldn’t figure out how to line their feet up for corner 3s. There were about a handful of instances in which a player stood either fully out of bounds or on the out of bounds line as he caught a pass or attempted a shot. Not good.